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D&D 4E Running Commentary on Rel's 4e Campaign (Complete 8/2/10)

Kinneus

First Post
Great stuff. I especially like the encounter with the spined devils... sounds like they got a surprise round? And having the broken portcullis as a limiting factor in the terrain is just brilliant. Very cinematic... I imagine somebody saying, "Hey, I think there's something back here" as they peer through the bars, then, BAM, flaming poisonous quills in the face.

What did you do for the ettercap queen, minions, and spider swarm? Do you build them from scratch, or re-skin other monsters?
 

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Rel

Liquid Awesome
What did you do for the ettercap queen, minions, and spider swarm? Do you build them from scratch, or re-skin other monsters?

The minions were just Ettercap Fang Guards with one Hit Point. Which makes them more dangerous than the average minion probably but since they were only being added to the fight one at a time then no biggie.

The spider swarm was something I found on the Compendium called a "Bloodweb Spider Swarm".

Oddly enough for the Queen I started with a minion and just added some stuff. She was a Bloodstone Spider and I just threw her like 150 Hit Points and gave her basic attack a free Grab thrown in. Then I added a Stun to her poisoned bite with a Save Ends. The other thing that was minor but interesting was that she started the fight as Huge and got downgraded to Large (and I swapped out the mini too) when the egg sac got ruptured. That was also a milestone (granting everybody an Action Point) and I indicated that this was obviously a fatal wound to her but she was still a danger until she was out of Hit Points.
 

Rel

Liquid Awesome
(a lot of ground was covered last session so I'm going to break this into parts)

The party returned to the spiral passage and continued down deeper into the Mist. The passed more mundane shops before coming to a place where the passage leveled out and a grand entrance on the inside of the spiral was topped by an archway adorned with dwarven runes. Zanne stepped forward and read them: "The Hall of the Underking" It sounded promising and they entered.

They found what was once probably a grand throne room that now stood in shambles, a victim of time and pillage. The imposing stone throne still stood in place but the rest of the chamber was a scattered mix of broken furniture, rubble and fallen bits of the mosaics that decorated the walls. Astavian examined the remains of this artwork with interest and noted that it depicted dwarves fighting along side a gold and silver dragon against what looked to be a red dragon.

The others found a bench that appeared to have been recently righted and stacked upon it were some square pieces of slate, upon which were carved some more runes. Zanne read these and identified a couple of them as a recipe for some kind of alcoholic beverage. The other was a missive to a place called "Karak Dag", requesting aid and indicating that soon an offensive would be mounted against a place only referred to as "the island". Nearby these stones they saw evidence of booted footprints and also those that they believed to be the unshod tracks of bugbears.

Suddenly the entrance to the Hall was crowded by a horde of small, pale, hungry creatures who swarmed into the chamber with murder in their eyes. The PC's leapt to the defensive. It was immediately obvious that these creatures were not all that tough individually and most fell to a single blow. But there were dozens, if not hundreds of them. And, when they got in close, their sharp claws and needle teeth were vicious.

Zanne unleashed some hunger of her own with the Hunger of Hadar, a consuming zone of darkness that she used to block the entrance to the throne room. This killed many, but not all, of the creatures as they appeared to be somewhat resistant to its effects. They appeared less resistant to Mialain's Consecrated Ground however. As the fight wore on, the PC's noticed that sometimes rather than cower and die when struck, some of the creatures would seem to rise to the challenge and fight back harder than ever. Both Eshik and Astavian were brought to the brink of unconsciousness and still they kept coming.

Suddenly there was a loud scraping of stone on stone and the creatures seemed to panic. Many retreated into the Hunger of Hadar, which killed some who had survived its embrace on entering the chamber. From the black flew the broken body of one of the diminutive Mist Demons and then, with a great roar, a giant stone lion burst from the darkness.

This...thing regarded Astavian and Eshik, "So...Dragonborn...Back to finish the job?" It growled and spat these words and seemed ready to rip them apart. Astavian lowered his blade however and spoke calmly, "Many years have passed and we have no quarrel with the Dwarves. We are here at their request to recover what we can from this place that has been so long abandoned. If you are the guardian of this place, I tell you that we come in peace."

Although mistrustful of the party (especially the Dragonborn) the "guardian" eventually seemed to agree that they meant no harm, or at least were being truthful. The PC's wished to know what it was that had happened there that had caused the Dwarves to abandon Karak Tor half a milennia ago. The Guardian led them deeper into the mountain to where the downward spiral ended in a wide promenade going north and south. It took them to the north where a large stone door blocked the way. It was held shut by what appeared to be the burly statue of a Dwarf that was melded into the stone of both the doors and floor. Behind the door were the distant sounds of battle.

"When your kind and their draconic masters came here, they unleashed a terrible evil at the River Gate. Those nearby, on both sides, were killed by it...and then rose from the dead to continue fighting. They fight there still.

The King held the doors closed while the Priests of Moradin did magic upon him to give him the strength of stone. He held this gate fast while the others escaped. The Everstone King has remained its guardian."

Further questioning revealed that the "Guardian" (the stone lion would not tell them its name) was tasked with guarding the "Hearth". This was another large door at the other end of the promenade, sealed shut. Outside the PC's found a teleportation circle, similar to the one they suspected that the Guildmaster of the Arcanon Confederacy had used in the chambers above in order to bypass the doors there. The Guardian indicated that these "guileful wizards" had tricked him, just a couple of days prior, into letting them do their magic here and he believed that they had possibly entered the Hearth. The Hearth was where the Dwarves had secreted many of their less portable treasures when they had fled Karak Tor.

The PC's asked if the Guardian could let them enter and it told them that its purpose was to prevent any from entering the Hearth without the key. It did not have the key. The PC's of course asked where the key was located and the Guardian replied without hesitation: "The key was held by the Warden of the River Gate."

And he of course fell to the necromantic magic unleashed by the dragons. If the PC's wanted the Key then they would have to find a way into the River Gate and pry it from the bones of the warring dead!

*****

Let me say up front that this last session was one of my favorites of the campaign. This despite (or maybe partly because) some of the very worst rolls I've ever seen by players in any RPG session I've ever sat in. I mean, some of the early sessions of this campaign saw Astavian's player roll badly for most or all of a session. But this last session the bad rolls were so widespread and consistant that it was simply astounding. And the dice would prove that they could roll high right at the moments when it mattered the least.

So the horde of little critters that swarmed into the throne room were an idea that I've been toying with for a while and decided to try out: Schroedinger's Minions. Basically I used the stats from a Goblin Blackblade but they only had 1 HP (also Resist 10 Necrotic). However, whenever one was hit, it had a 25% chance of being a non-minion. So I rolled a d4 and on a 1, that creature had 25 Hit Points.

Well my rolls were not much better than those of the party. I rolled at least 12 times before I rolled a single 1. At least a dozen, probably closer to 20, of them died to a combination of the Hunger of Hadar and Consecrated Ground. They were dying left and right, but whenever a group of them managed to gang up on one PC (usually Astavian or Eshik) the damage they inflicted was NASTY. Astavian took 37 points of damage in one round from four of them. The PC's were relieved when they finally fled, although they dreaded whatever struck such fear into the hearts of the vile little creatures.

When the Guardian showed up, Astavian's player said, "Well it least it isn't a Balrog!"

The Guardian was a Sphinx. My plan was that this thing was ready to fight them but that they could initiate a Skill Challenge to talk it down and get some information. Especially considering that they hadn't had a chance to rest after battling the horde of Mist Demons, a fight with the Sphinx would have been a disaster. It turned out that (thanks to the bad luck on dice rolls) that the PC's BARELY squeaked through that Skill Challenge. It was only by virtue of being totally forthright and honest that they managed it. If they had lied to the Sphinx, even once, I think things might have gone very badly for them.

The great news was that, because of the potential for disaster and squeaking by on some of the rolls, this Skill Challenge was tense as well as informative.
 

Sytonis

First Post
So the horde of little critters that swarmed into the throne room were an idea that I've been toying with for a while and decided to try out: Schroedinger's Minions. Basically I used the stats from a Goblin Blackblade but they only had 1 HP (also Resist 10 Necrotic). However, whenever one was hit, it had a 25% chance of being a non-minion. So I rolled a d4 and on a 1, that creature had 25 Hit Points.

Great idea, will suggest this to my DM, I really like the concept of minions, but my DM is struggling to get over the 1 hit point.


Sytonis
 

Joshua Randall

Adventurer
Sounds like the mist-demon minions were still rolling damage instead of dealing a flat amount? I think that is a fine change as long as you (as DM) don't mind the extra dice rolling. (One of the nice things about normal minions is that they deal a fixed amount of damage, so you only have to roll attacks for them.)

The other good thing about rolling damage for minions is that it allows them to deal max damage on a crit. Of course, with normal minions that deal fixed damage, you can simply double the damage on a crit.

The interesting thing about minions, to me, is how carefully their defenses have to be balanced against the party. If the minions' defenses are too low, the PCs will mow them down super quickly (well, if the players don't roll crappy) and the minions won't be a threat. If the minions' defenses are too high, the PCs will not be able to kill them quickly enough and the minions will deal a lot of damage -- more than expected for their XP value.
 

Riggs

First Post
Plus Astavian's player totally digs it anytime he gets to smite a Mist Demon.

100% true. He hasn't even gotten to the part where Astavian pretty well hoses himself to keep trying to kill a mist demon.

My rolling was so bad, I would have averaged better with d6s over 4 or 5 rolls. I had about 3 of 4 rolls come up a 3 on a d20. Once it was to aid another and I need a 4. It was really annoying. I don't have to tell you the only time I rolled worth anything was on stupid initiative, and Rel rolled higher every time.

The session before, I was fine and stunted to land on/charge/thundering sword the spider queen. Awesomely cool, then the stunted sheet of fire that Zanne threw out to toast the swarm and finish the spider queen as Astavian stood on top of her was very cool.
But this time, nothing was going to roll right. It was probably lucky that we fought a pile of minions so I had a shot at hitting them anyway.

I rolled well when it mattered one time and one time only: the first Diplomacy roll when Astavian was confronted by the sphinx. I had exploding 6s get me to a 32, which contributed to the bacon-saving challenge.

That's the way dice games go. I'm thinking of taking my d20s to the driving range to the tee...

As far as damage taken and inflicted, I feel like my character's name should be Bruce Willis, but it rarely feels over the top, just tense.

As we get to part 2 here, I really enjoyed how I got to play Astavian, even in the face of the worst rolling ever. We kept joking how "May 11th is a day long remembered.." for crappy dice rolling.
 

Rel

Liquid Awesome
Great idea, will suggest this to my DM, I really like the concept of minions, but my DM is struggling to get over the 1 hit point.


Sytonis

Another idea that I've had as a variation on the normal Minion rules is to allow them to take two hits or one Crit before they go down. So basically after the first hit they are bloodied and after the second they fall. But if the first hit is a Crit then they still go down in a single blow.

Sounds like the mist-demon minions were still rolling damage instead of dealing a flat amount? I think that is a fine change as long as you (as DM) don't mind the extra dice rolling. (One of the nice things about normal minions is that they deal a fixed amount of damage, so you only have to roll attacks for them.)

The other good thing about rolling damage for minions is that it allows them to deal max damage on a crit. Of course, with normal minions that deal fixed damage, you can simply double the damage on a crit.

Yeah they did 1d6+2 damage or 2d6+2 if they had Combat Advantage. I might have considered making these fixed numbers if I had thought about it. But in practice is was hardly onerous since they killed so many of the minions before they ever got a chance to take a swing that it was the exception rather than the rule to have more than one or two attacking in a single round.

The interesting thing about minions, to me, is how carefully their defenses have to be balanced against the party. If the minions' defenses are too low, the PCs will mow them down super quickly (well, if the players don't roll crappy) and the minions won't be a threat. If the minions' defenses are too high, the PCs will not be able to kill them quickly enough and the minions will deal a lot of damage -- more than expected for their XP value.

Well I ditched XP so that's not a concern. And when it comes to encounter design I'm not bothering to run them through the Encounter Calculator thingy on the DDI anymore. I mostly just wing it and it works out pretty well most of the time. These minions had fairly crappy defenses and I knew that the PC's would hit them reliably. Their threat was much more in the fact that some of them would not go down in one hit and that there were TONS of them. I think in total they killed close to 40 of them.

On the other hand, this encounter had a built in "safety valve" with the arrival of the Sphinx. Which is not to say that there was no danger. But the danger was more in the form of how much of their resources might be used if they had to fight the Sphinx rather than from dying to the Minions themselves.
 

Another idea that I've had as a variation on the normal Minion rules is to allow them to take two hits or one Crit before they go down. So basically after the first hit they are bloodied and after the second they fall. But if the first hit is a Crit then they still go down in a single blow.

If I ever run 4e again, I'm pretty sure I'll use 50/50 minions. Whenever they take damage, roll a d6 and they die on a 1-3. This gives them a little more survivability, and more importantly takes away the predictibility.
 

Rel

Liquid Awesome
(this will get us caught up to present)

The PC's asked the Guardian if there were any way to get to the River Gate since The Everstone King still blocked the way. The Guardian replied that it might be possible to descend from the "Upper Defenses". That would be the ledge on which they found the rotting catapult and nest of the spined Mist Demons. Mialain did some quick calculations based on her mapping and estimated the distance from there to the ground outside the gate to be between 200 and 300 feet. A hell of a climb.

The group had, between them, 200 feet of rope and so Eshik did some scrounging among the shops along the Promenade and came up with another 50 feet of chain that had survived in usable condition. They'd have to hope that was enough. They bedded down on the hard stone once again, trusting that the presence of the Guardian nearby would be enough to keep those smaller Mist Demons at bay.

Rested they ascended once more to the passage where they had fought the spined Mist Demons and made their way out to the ledge. Eshik offered to descend ahead of the rest and fasten the rope to the cliff face with pitons in order to make the descent easier for the others. They all doffed any armor that would hinder their climb and Eshik lowered himself over the edge.

Mialain and Zanne both nearly lost their grip and had to catch themselves, cruelly injuring their hands in the process. But all made it down to another ledge where Eshik waited for them before making the remaining descent. As he waited he peered down into the Mist below and made a pair of discoveries. First, the Mist below seemed thinner than he thought it should be and thought that there might be some kind of clearing in the Mist. And as he looked for some explanation for this phenomenon, he saw the winged form of another of the Mist Demons ghosting along some 50 feet below.

The group had a whispered conference and it was decided that Eshik pounding in further pitons would certainly attract the Mist Demons and thus they would attempt to make the descent quietly. This would also make it more difficult but there was little that could be done for that. Cautiously and quietly they made their way down. This time it was Eshik who nearly fell. He managed to catch himself but not before a panicked cry escaped his mouth. Moments later the alterted Mist Demons emerged, laughing from the murk and began to fire off volleys of their quills.

Eshik, Mialain and Astavian were already on the rope and could do little to defend themselves. But Zanne was still up on the ledge and began to fire off spells at the creatures to distract them from attacking her friends. This worked rather well and a moment later one of the creatures landed on the narrow ledge, face to face with her.

The other Demon kept up its attacks upon those hastily climbing down. Eshik was getting close to the ground with Mialain not far behind when the Demon had a diabolical idea. It swooped over to the cliff above Astavian and, with a single swipe of its claws, severed their rope. Miraculously all three managed to keep their grip on the rocks nearby but the climb down just became MUCH harder.

Above, Zanne was giving ground and unleashing spell after spell upon her adversary. It slashed at her with its claws, preferring to stay in close as it pressed her toward the edge of the precipice. The other demon below fell away from the cliff and dropped even with Astavian, continuing its cruel laugh as it fired another volley of poisoned spines at the helpless Dragonborn. Astavian, still some 70 feet above the ground, would not stand for this. With a roar he leapt out from the face of the cliff and grabbed the leg of the surprised Mist Demon some ten feet away. Its spines dug through his scales and into the flesh below but the Paladin kept his grip, swinging on the creature and trying to pull it down to the ground with him.

Eshik finally reached the ground intact to find himself inside a "bubble" in the Mist. For some strange reason the air was fresh and clear of the corrupting substance. Above him, Mialain called upon her link with nature and the small vines and scrub that grew amid the cracks on the cliff became much larger, giving her ample handholds for the rest of her descent. With renewed confidence she moved closer to the ground, only to lose her grip and fall the last ten feet.

Zanne was driven nearly over the edge of the cliff 100 feet above and fell to the ground right at the edge. As the Mist Demon loomed over her she peered through the murk below and saw Astavian climbing the Mist Demon and hammering his fists in an attempt to break its wings. She saw an opportunity to help and...rolled right off the ledge, kicking herself away from the cliff and towards the Dragonborn.

Astavian called upon ever ounce of his strength as he hammered at the spiny Demon. And yet despite his efforts, its wings remained intact and it even managed to climb higher into the sky. Suddenly the Warlock was falling past him, her arm outstretched, wishing only to touch the smallest part of the Dragonborn...but she failed.

Zanne had been prepared to grab the Paladin and use her Etherial Stride to get both of them closer to the ground where the fall might not kill them. But her aim was off and her grasp missed Astavian by inches. As she shot past she thought to herself, "Looks like we're going to have to do this the hard way..." And Teleported back up to where Astavian struggled with the infernal creature. Zanne suspected that there was no way it could remain aloft under the weight of both of them. She reached out to grab the Paladin's belt...and missed again. A moment later she landed in a crumpled pile next to Mialain, having, thanks to her Teleport, fallen more than the distance from the ledge to the ground.

Miraculously however she was alive. This would certainly not have been the case were she not wearing the Catstep Boots that had been a gift from King Klo of Opkhar. Instead she was only hovering at the brink of death. But since she had fallen directly next to Mialain, the Cleric of Melora only had to extend her arm to provide a healing touch to the fallen Warlock.

Eshik meanwhile was firing his crossbow up at the Mist Demon with which Astavian still struggled. But the creature was managing to climb still higher despite carrying the full weight of the Paladin on its back. Eshik watched helplessly as his friend was borne up into the obscuring Mist and he could no longer get it in his sights.

But it did not vanish for long.

An instant later the Mist Demon and Astavian both reappeared as they were snatched out of the sky by steel claws. The flapping of metallic wings was all around the Paladin as his spine wrenched from the sudden change in direction. Although the Dragon had slowed their fall, he still hit the ground with a bone jarring thud as he rolled away from where Steelslicer ripped the Mist Demon in half and feasted upon the upper portion of its body.

Astavian managed to rise to his feet, bloodied and battered. Then he spoke in Draconic, "It's good to see you, Steelslicer."

******

The Skill Challenge for descending the cliff was a simple one but the group still managed to bring some creative solutions to bear. I thought it was very smart of Eshik's player to go in search of some chain to extend their rope. And Mialain's idea to have the plants grow to provide more handholds was inspired.

The key feature of this battle was the PC's collossal bad luck. There were several extremely cool stunts that took place, some of them with a pretty good chance of success. The high roll during any of them was a 4. I have seldom been rooting harder for a stunt to succeed than Zanne's skydiving attempt to rescue Astavian from the back of the Mist Demon. But when they roll a 4...well stuff just fails.

I think it was very gratifying to see Zanne's Catstep Boots save her from another Death By Falling event. Especially since she upped the ante by adding an extra 30 feet to the fall by way of the teleport. ;)

So having Steelslicer show up when she did seems like somewhat of a deus ex machina. And to some extent it was. But she has a reason to be here and I was also having Astavian roll a "luck roll" each round for her to show up and help them out. Yeah, until that last one, the high roll there as a 7 I think.

I can only hope that their luck takes a turn for the better when they have to enter the River Gate next session and fight a big pile of undead!
 

Legildur

First Post
...even in the face of the worst rolling ever. We kept joking how "May 11th is a day long remembered.." for crappy dice rolling.
It must have been something to do with the planets, as our group suffered similar issues at that time - we made hard work of simple encounters through very, very poor rolling.
 

stobil

First Post
I can only hope that their luck takes a turn for the better when they have to enter the River Gate next session and fight a big pile of undead!

So, our luck in the next session was average to bad (with Astavian and Zanne seeming to drag the other two down), but Rel was a luck leech, as he rolled ridiculously well against us. And it didn't seem to matter which dice he was rolling, as he put out six crits with three different dice (I had thrown his original die into the corner of the room after he hit Astavian on like seven out of eight opportunities in one round. And Astavian had an AC of 23 at the time.) Zanne started out OK, as she put out a Scorching Blast that hit six out of seven targets, and got a Fiery Bolt to work as well, but its damage was weak. I think that is when Zanne's luck started to suck. Astavian wasn't rolling terribly the whole time, but the AC of main baddies he was trying to hit was pretty high, resulting in many misses.

However, despite all of that, we did eventually succeed due to Mialain's mostly good luck and some timely good smackage from Eshik. Mialain's radiant damage was very effective since we were battling undead. I'll leave the main description of the battle to Rel.
 

The_Warlock

First Post
Another idea that I've had as a variation on the normal Minion rules is to allow them to take two hits or one Crit before they go down. So basically after the first hit they are bloodied and after the second they fall. But if the first hit is a Crit then they still go down in a single blow.

I do something akin to this for my True20-esque run, with three "classes" of minion:

Mooks: 1 hit to kill
Henchmen: 2 hits or 1 crit to kill
Lieutenants: 3 hits to kill, grant all other minions in the fight an "extra hit" to a max of 3, by their leadership/supernatural power.

It's worked out really well so far. There's still way less bookkeeping, but allows variation in challenge when using minions.
 

Rel

Liquid Awesome
Well it seems that the planets were moving a bit but were still similarly aligned to their configuration on May 11th. ;)...

Astavian had a brief discussion with Steelslicer in which she told him that she had "smelled this place from a hundred miles away" because of the dead dragons and the "burning metal" (adamantite). Astavian made some friendly overtures but Steelslicer was rather condescending and made it known that she did not consider the Dragonborn her equal. She indicated that he and his friends had given back her wings and she'd now saved him from dying in a fall. So things were "equal" in her eyes. She withdrew a short distance, drank from the river and then took flight in search of more prey.

The party peered inside the smashed doors of the River Hall and could see dozens, maybe hundreds of undead Dwarves and Dragonborn continuing their centuries-old battle. It seemed to center on a large dragon skeleton and Zanne could sense that from the other side (near the skull) of the dragon was where the source of the necromantic energy emanated from. She and Mialain together drew and empowered a ward against any undead who tried to pass through the gateway such that the PC's could retreat there if necessary. Astavian and Eshik kept watch while this was done and noted that any fallen undead soldiers rose again within a minute or two.

Eshik scouted ahead and was able to sneak to one of the many low structures that lined the sides of the River Hall. He managed to climb on top and got a look at what appeared to be the leaders of these armies of skeletons. An armored dwarven undead wielded its maul against a mighty dragonborn skeleton. Two lieutenants flanked each of them. They fought directly in front of the skull of the dead dragon. Eshik could see that there was some kind of plate or seal upon the dragon skull and an axe was buried in it. From this place shone the pale green light that Zanne had said was a sign of the evil energy that infused the place. Eshik began to slink back across the roof of the old building to inform the others of his discovery.

Then he fell.

The roof collapsed under his weight and he landed gracelessly on the floor below next to a pair of struggling undead warriors. He was on his feet in a flash and out the door, running for safety, but the other undead had noticed the disturbance and were moving to attack him. One shot a sickly green bolt of energy that froze him in his tracks.

The rest of the party ran to his aid but found themselves stuck on one side of the huge dragon skeleton and Eshik on the other. The Ranger managed a moment later to struggle free from the necromantic forces that had immobilized him and climbed hastily over the dragon skeleton, closer to his comerades. They were beset on all sides by this swarm of undead. The struggle of old seemed forgotten in the face of these living foes and both the dwarven and Dragonborn leaders as well as their soldiers focused their attacks on the nearest living thing.

Astavian purposefully kept himself between the bulk of the undead and the others to protect them as well as allow them to focus their attacks on the Dwarf-lord, whom they could now see held a great maul that was also the key to the Hearth door. The Paladin took tremendous damage as blow after blow found any small crack in his defenses. Twice he fell to the ground and twice he was brought back to his feet by Mialain's healing magic. She called upon Melora to provide a sanctuary of Consecrated Ground amid the dark and evil magics that filled the chamber around them. This bolstered those within it (mostly Astavian and later Eshik) but also weakened the undead and kept them from rising again so quickly.

The undead Dragonborn lieutenants stood back, content for the time to unleash their necrotic bolts of green light. Zanne tired of this and beset them with the Hunger of Hadar. Although this seething darkness did little to harm the undead, they could not see through it and had to advance. In doing so they opted to attack the Warlock with their fetid claws but she retreated towards the Consecrated Ground and the lieutenants were driven back by its burning glow.

The party finally managed to thin the ranks to the point that only a few of the undead soldiers still stood beside their leaders. Gasping for breath and barely keeping their feet, Eshik, Astavian and Zanne hurled attack after attack at these lifeless leaders until finally the Dwarf-lord fell. Eshik retrieved the maul and began to retreat to where Mialain already stood on the safe side of the Ward. But again he was immobilized by attacks from the undead lieutenants. Astavian fought face to skull with the Dragonborn champion until finally it was shattered by his chisel-tip blade. The last pair of lieutenants were dispatched moments later.

Eshik and Astavian withdrew to the safety of the Ward to catch their breath. But Zanne was anxious to see the source of the necromantic power of this place and attempt to put a stop to it. Moved cautiously to the dragon skull, noting as she went that there were still more undead continuing to battle one another deeper in the chamber. Stopping just on the far side of the skull, she saw that there was a metal seal burned into the top of its head. She was momentarily stunned to note that it bore an emblem that she saw every day adorning the armor of one of her companions: The Symbol of Ryukaar, Astavian's deity. She wasted no further time however and siezed the handle of the adamantite axe buried in the seal and wrenched it free. With a flicker of greenish light the flow of evil power ceased and the area was plunged into darkness. Zanne stretched out her hand and unleashed a burst of fire in the depths of the chamber to reveal that the last of the undead had ceased their struggle.

Astavian and Eshik had by now rejoined her and the Paladin looked with puzzlement and apprehension at the cracked seal in the dragon skull. With some help from his allies he chipped it free from the skull and took it out into the daylight to examine and pray over it. As he crossed the threshold of the River Gate the final remnants of the ancient spell were broken and the River Hall was free of the evil influence that had permeated the place. With a dusty rumble the doors into the interior of Karak Tor opened.

Zanne and Eshik approached to find a crown sitting atop a pile of stone dust - all that remained of the Everstone King who had long held the evil at bay. A moment later the heavy stone footsteps of the Guardian approached. Astavian and Mialain joined their other companions in the River Door as the Guardian looked at the maul that Eshik held, "It seems that my trust in your word was well placed." It nodded and returned to guard the Hearth.

The party took a few minutes to search the chamber for items of value or historical significance. They recovered a dozen weapons of dwarven or dragonborn origin as well as a pair of other Holy Symbols of Ryukaar that were carried by the dragonborn lieutenant/priests. There were a few hilts of old dwarven weapons adorned with gemstones with some monetary value as well.

Astavian meanwhile meditated over the cracked seal, reaching out for contact with Ryukaar. A voice range clear in his head: "Bring it to me." He knew that he must soon carry the seal far to the west to the plateau of Alboa where dwelled his god in the High Temple.

Battered and drained, the group were at least thankful that they did not have to ascend back up to the overlook they had climbed down from. They walked the length of the promenade and bedded down to rest just outside the Hearth. Astavian took first watch with much on his mind. He sat gazing at the cracked seal and listened to the even breathing of his exhausted companions. Suddenly he was snapped from his reverie by the distant sound of breaking metal and the huge Hearth Door began to grind open.

Astavian took up a guard position as his companions scrambled from their bedrolls. The door swung all the way open to reveal a pair of robed figures, one of them an elf, and three rather battered looking Bugbears. The robed human seemed slightly surprised to see the Dragonborn Paladin standing there but quickly recovered. He brandished a short, thick stone scepter, topped with the head of a lion.

"Destroy them," he commanded.

The PC's looked in shock as the Guardian crouched to obey this command...

(and that's the cliffhanger ending for the session)

*****

Whew! The battle in the River Hall against the undead was easily the most epic of the campaign. In total it took about two and a half hours but this was not grind (at least not to me). It was a roller coaster ride of danger!

First of all, the players still had fairly bad luck with their dice (although not so bad as the week before) and my dice were ON FIRE. Twice Zanne's player confiscated one of my "big red d20's" (including the one that rolled the nat 20 vs. Gary Gygax's Gelatinous Cube) because they were rolling so hot. He gave me this tiny black d20 instead but it still rolled pretty well. In total I rolled at least 6 or 7 natural 20's vs the PCs in that battle. Due to the overwhelming aura of death magic these were all crits (even the ones inflicted by non-elites).

That combined with the loss of Healing Surges from the Wights made this a harrowing battle. Astavian went unconscious multiple times and there was one point where he, Eshik and Zanne probably had about 25 hit points between them. Huge props to Mialain for keeping up a steady stream of healing. That Consecrated Ground is an awesome Daily power and they would never have made it through without it.

Really everybody did a good job this time around. Astavian was as good a Tank as you could ask for. He seldom had less than four enemies adjacent to him and had as many as seven on him at one time (took TWO crits and four hits total that round). Eshik kept up a constant assault on the Dwarf-lord so that, even if they couldn't destroy all the undead, they would at least come away with the maul. Zanne had some fairly crappy luck on some of her spells but she still dealt out a significant pile of damage and was the only one able to disrupt the harrying missile attacks from the pair of undead priests.

What I threw at them was just nasty. The priests were a pair of Deathlock Wights. The Dwarf-lord and Dragonborn Champion were both Battle Wights and there were around 15 Skeleton Troopers.

If it seems like I'm a bastard for letting them get attacked, while camping, when they have almost no Daily Powers and very few Healing Surges...well, guilty as charged. ;)
 

Riggs

First Post
This was a tough fight, and I thought that we had a solid chance to have some party deaths, mostly because of the six "special" baddies and all of them had the ability to root you to the spot and drain a healing surge. Eshik would have been done for if he had failed the save to get out of the immobilized condition again. The dragon's tail was a barrier and helped us not get swarmed (Astavian stood between the tail tip and the wall and most of the baddies were happy to kick his behind repeatedly) but still several were in the backfield, including three of the six "specials". I don't recall if any of us had a stunt that worked, and although our rolls were better, the bigshots had high defense numbers and it seemed like we had to roll well to hit them. I noticed that my two best daily powers were ranged, so I decided Astavian couldn't afford to use them, since it would allow about six free attacks on him. Astavian got knocked out many times and was healed back up again by Mialain's magic. It felt like we all reacted the way veterans would when it hits the fan, and we withstood the nasty damage rolls Rel was making. I think very few of us had much of anything left of our powers and effects. We also have very little in the way of healing surges left since the baddies sapped those as well. The "o snap" moment when we saw the plate on the dragon's skull, and that the Dragonborn "specials" were shooting the green nasty spells was disconcertingly fun.

So then the pre-sleep attack was extra harsh. We had decided that the stone lion would crush us all, so priority was to get that scepter away from the human asap. No rest from the wicked...


Adding to this wall of text, I'll say that well before this, the Dragonborn had taken this mission to find the key to forging adamantite in order to destroy any knowledge of it. Without all the details, re-introducing technology that can specifically take down a race is not good, and maybe only a half step of re-engineering to get it to be anti-Dragonborn. The mechanics, probablilities and all that aren't motivating the Dragonborn as much as the idea of it, especially since this land is mostly now owned by the Confederacy that these jerks we are about to fight are from, and they are the mageocracy that would have the means to reverse-engineer if anyone does.

We are carrying the two adamantite axes that were in the skulls of the dragons for later decision. We figured there would be a decent discussion within the party when the Dragonborn stated their intentions.
 


Sytonis

First Post
There's a player in my group with a dragonborn paladin. I am curious if Astavianhas been able to use the dragonbreath creatively, especially with you stunt rules?
 

Rel

Liquid Awesome
There's a player in my group with a dragonborn paladin. I am curious if Astavianhas been able to use the dragonbreath creatively, especially with you stunt rules?

I don't recall any unusual uses of it but Astavian's player may remember that better than I do. But it does get used in almost every fight.

However it is Eshik that has become the King of the Dragon Breath. He found a pre-cataclysm magical relic that gives his Dragon Breath a recharge on a 5 or 6 so he sometimes uses it multiple times per combat and is very adept at catching as many foes as possible within the blast. And sometimes Zanne too. ;)
 

Sytonis

First Post
I don't recall any unusual uses of it but Astavian's player may remember that better than I do. But it does get used in almost every fight.

However it is Eshik that has become the King of the Dragon Breath. He found a pre-cataclysm magical relic that gives his Dragon Breath a recharge on a 5 or 6 so he sometimes uses it multiple times per combat and is very adept at catching as many foes as possible within the blast. And sometimes Zanne too. ;)

Oooh, that sounds interesting. I may suggest that to the DM as it fits. I'm pretty sure that the paladin will be taking on of the dragonborn paragon paths.

Have the players looked at paragon paths for their characters yet. I'll be asking for somethin in-game to occur in the levels before it just so it's not spontaneous. If every player wants the same it could be tricky to fit in.
 

Henry

Autoexreginated
The minions were just Ettercap Fang Guards with one Hit Point. ...
The spider swarm was something I found on the Compendium called a "Bloodweb Spider Swarm"...

Oddly enough for the Queen I started with a minion and just added some stuff. She was a Bloodstone Spider and I just threw her like 150 Hit Points and gave her basic attack a free Grab thrown in. Then I added a Stun to her poisoned bite with a Save Ends. The other thing that was minor but interesting was that she started the fight as Huge and got downgraded to Large (and I swapped out the mini too) when the egg sac got ruptured. That was also a milestone (granting everybody an Action Point) and I indicated that this was obviously a fatal wound to her but she was still a danger until she was out of Hit Points.

To me, this here is a great strength of 4e: the facilitation of kit-bashing such as this, which I had an easier time with compared to many earlier editions. I'm glad to see you able to take it in such skilled stride. It reminds me, in fact, I'm not playing nearly enough lately. :D

Let me also add I'm enjoying the heck out of these campaign notes. It gives me a great perspective into modifying the existing rules to get the desired result for the players.
 

Rechan

Adventurer
Finally just clicked on the last page of this thread, because I was curious. Wow! I've seen Rel or maybe one of his players mention the battles in other threats, ruleswise, but Rel makes a good read! :) The skydiving warlock trying to save the paladin on the devil's back was a really gripping read!

Two questions, Rel:
She and Mialain together drew and empowered a ward against any undead who tried to pass through the gateway such that the PC's could retreat there if necessary.
What was this? A rules ritual? Just a good religion/arcana roll?

Also, what rules are you using for stunting? I imagine it's beyond page 42; it seems like you give certain benefits for badass stunting. But I didn't see those rules in "How I fixed 4e".
 
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